LISP 4th Quarter 2020 Official SelectionShort Screenplay, 'How Woman Jakol?' by Nicole N. Nequinto
Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?
I’m back in Manila after studying film in LA for three years. I got back a few months before the lockdown and have been fortunate enough to keep busy with work. The day to day now is mostly sitting at my laptop, taking care of my cat and reminding myself that I bought a resin art kit and should probably try it at some point.
Last year I was really busy promoting my current short film Still Trying while trying to juggle some new projects. Something which has definitely kept me going have been my amazing, creative friends who continue to share their projects with me.
When did you start writing? How often do you write?
I started writing in elementary school. I attended a school for kids with learning disabilities, as I was diagnosed with Dyslexia at a young age. The school, Wordlab, is now closed unfortunately but I’ll never forget the amazing teachers I had who inspired me to read and write.
I started writing a film in 2017 and haven’t stopped. I wish I could say I am very religious about my writing habits. Unfortunately, it’s more of really spirited bursts of heavy writing and editing when I have the time and energy. And then it’s kind of quiet while I re-charge. It’s a work in progress.
My very first pilot, Kota, OR: A Memorial to Murder, was selected as an Austin Film Festival 2018 Second Rounder in their comedy teleplay pilot category.It’s a mockumentary, which follows an amateur documentary crew as they navigate a small town that’s turned a series of grizzly murders into their tourist attraction.
Still Trying, a short film I wrote and directed, is currently in its festival circuit.It follows a Filipina woman in her mid-20s who decides it’s time to move out, but is conflicted when she realizes her mom is still in pieces over her recent divorce. It’s been selected as part of the Bend Film Festival 2020, Austin Asian American Film Festival 2020, Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival 2020 and many others.
How does it feel to have your work recognised?
It feels amazing. The bare bones of the screenplay often feel so lonely. I find that it’s a lot of talking to yourself, sitting down and staring into space trying to piece things together.
This story in particular, was really difficult to figure out. And I’m so happy I had amazing friends who guided me as I wrote this. And on top of that - that I get to share this recognition with them! Shout out to David, Lucy, Krys, Shirley, Rodrigo and Anna ♥
What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Screenplay?
Hardest thing is planning and editing. I take forever in the planning stage. Compiling notes, bouncing ideas off with friends or my cat, getting distracted and saying I am doing research by watching and reading any movie or TV show I can find. And editing because it's really hard to kill your darlings.
The best thing is watching actors do their magic during the filming. I love watching them bring my characters to life. The piece evolves from a very personal baby to this shared experience I have with them and the crew. I miss being on-set so much and I can’t wait to get this one shot in a post-Pandemic world.
How did you come up with the idea for your LISP selected screenplay? Is there a story behind your story? And, how long have you been working on it?
I had this image of a girl and her laptop. And the story grew from there over a few years. It was inspired by a controversial bill in the Philippines. I was in a good, private Catholic school when the government proposed the Reproductive Health Bill. Which primarily advocated for sex education to be taught in school. The Philippine Catholic Church was staunchly against it. When I went to a different Catholic university for my first year of college, a teacher of mine said he would require the whole class to protest against the bill. During one of their seminars which was meant to teach sex education, a priest told all of us that syphilis was a lung disease.
The bill has since passed but faces constant barriers, and has yet to be successfully implemented. In the meantime, HIV and teenage pregnancy cases are at an all time high in the country. I recently attended a local STI awareness seminar where the number one form of birth control they advised was abstinence. Number two was don’t cheat on your partner. Duh.
These aren’t fun things to talk about. It actually makes me really upset. And that’s why How Woman Jakol? (How Woman Masturbate?) is a comedy. I love comedies, they’re a great way to unpack painful and uncomfortable topics. And while there are so many things to be angry about there are also so many things to celebrate - like the internet.
I want this film to be a love letter to the women and communities who took the time to share their knowledge online. To all the teachers who posted infographics or left informative comments on Tumblr threads or talked about it on YouTube. We’ve long viewed sex on the internet as evil. But for so many, it was the only way to access helpful information.
I wanted to create a story that celebrates a young woman’s sexuality instead of shaming her for it. It was very important for me to write a protagonist who isn’t scared of her body but instead embraces it. While the world has largely accepted strong sexually empowered women, there is still a stigma in the Philippines.
When I think of this story, I think of all the intimate and funny conversations I have had with my friends. I want to capture that honest energy, that vulnerability and that confidence. I hope to share this laughter through the film and turn it into an empowering and heartfelt experience for everyone. And if it teaches a young woman something new about masturbation then that’s a huge bonus too.
Can you please give us a few tips about writing a short screenplay?
Ask yourself: what do I really want to say? And I mean, really think about it. With the nature of shorts, it’s important to really figure out the message early. That way you can focus on highlighting only the important bits and flesh out your characters in the best beautifully, raw and succinct way possible.
Give them something to do. A common thing I noticed in my favorite shorts are how active they are. The characters are always moving and dealing with ten million different things all at once. It kind of goes back to the first tip, you get to give them more to deal with in less time.
Sometimes, it’s okay to not have all the answers.Shorts, in my own personal opinion, don’t always need to have that story book ending. I love it when they leave me wanting more. While a fulfilling ending is always the goal, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to fill-in every single subplot and character arc. Leave people wanting more.
What's the best thing and the hardest thing about festivals/competitions?
Hardest is choosing the right ones to submit too. I think festivals are a great place to meet people and get your work out to audiences who’d never be able to see your work. But I think a lot of places take advantage of this drive for filmmakers to be recognised. And instead, don’t really do any of the work to help promote the selected projects. It’s a bit hard breaking but on the flip side, it’s great when festivals/competitions take the time to spotlight the creators.
The best part is meeting people and hearing what they think about your work. My festival experience as a creator has been a bit limited due to Covid-19 but I still have loved every second of it. It’s so gratifying to see people relate and empathize with something that felt so personal. I love meeting the amazing festival teams, brilliant filmmakers and eager audiences. They’re always so inspiring and lovely!
Lastly, do you recommend writers to give it a go LISP?
Yes, absolutely. Aside from curating great work, it’s great that LISP takes the time to give filmmakers and writers a platform on their site.